It's called the EcoCenter and it is San Francisco's first truly off-the-grid building. It's going to be used to teach kids about the environmental problems — and solutions — facing the next generation of environmentalists.
The EcoCenter is located at Heron's Head Park, a 23-acre wetland that a decade ago was a contaminated dump site that has been restored by the Port of San Francisco. Nearly every inch of the EcoCenter's 1,500-square-foot facility uses innovative green building design techniques to educate the public about renewable energy, pollution and greenhouse gas reduction, wastewater treatment, "green" building materials and the green economy.
The center is the brainchild of the Bay Area's Literacy for Environmental Justice (LEJ, pronounced Ledge.) The facility provides paid internships to Bayview Hunters Point kids in environmental health, natural ecology and food security and offers free, hands-on environmental educational programs to schools, colleges and youth programs.
The EcoCenter provides the background for many of the programs offered by LEJ. The "EcoMachine" wastewater treatment uses a series of wetland cells and ultraviolet sterilization lamps to treat wastewater and recycle treated water for landscape irrigation. The green living roof cuts down on heating and cooling requirements, provides stormwater retention for onsite reuse, and encourages wildlife habitat. Solar panels throughout the building are used to provide all of the center's electricity. And native landscaping surrounding the EcoCenter promotes water conservation, eliminates the need for synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and helps the kids learn about native plant propagation.
It's an amazing facility put together by an even more amazing community of dedicated volunteers.